2018-19 RTC16: Week Four

Posted by Walker Carey on December 17th, 2018

As full conference play nears, it is becoming increasingly clear what the strengths and weaknesses are among the top teams in college basketball. That was certainly the case Saturday night in Chapel Hill when #8 North Carolina used a first half offensive explosion to pace its way to a 103-90 victory over #6 Gonzaga. The game went a long way to show that the Tar Heels still possess one of the country’s most dynamic offenses and will be reckoned with this season. Senior guard Cameron Johnson and senior forward Luke Maye combined for 45 points in the winning effort, while the team’s duo at point guard – freshman Koby White and junior Seventh Woods – teamed up to contribute 29 points and seven assists. North Carolina still has its defensive flaws, but the Tar Heels have enough firepower to beat anyone. On the other side of the coin, Gonzaga’s defensive issues again presented significant problems, as the Zags allowed 50+ points in both halves and gave up 13 North Carolina three-pointers. Mark Few‘s club will not be exposed on the defensive end of the floor during WCC play this season, but its middling defensive efficiency (63rd nationally) shows the Bulldogs need to work some things out before the NCAA Tournament commences in three months. This week’s Quick n’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

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What’s Trending: Holiday Cheers and Jeers

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 17th, 2018

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Gonzaga’s Mark Few did not mince words when talking about NCAA President Mark Emmert, going so far as saying, “Emmert needs to step up and be a leader and make some quicker decisions.” Few continued: “there’s a lot of teams who do it right – the National Champions two out of the last three years. There’s a lot of great things. This thing is worth saving.” While Few later went on to say his championship comments were not a shot at North Carolina’s Roy Williams, it was still interesting timing ahead of Gonzaga’s weekend game against North Carolina (which the Zags lost).

On the topic of Emmert and the NCAA, the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) have partnered on a new rule that limits the players that coaches can watch during the month of June. Limiting access of coaches to players in this way is not a step in the right direction.

While action on the court was limited this week because of final exams, it did include a few noteworthy moments. Midweek action included Villanova’s trip to The Palestra to take on Penn. While the Quakers ultimately came out on top, credit should still be given to Jay Wright for playing the game. High-major programs willing to play true road games at mid-majors is always good for college basketball. 

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Recent Final Four Rematch

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 14th, 2018

While the slate of games this weekend is far from full, there remains plenty of intrigue and questions heading into the action. Here are 10 questions I have heading into this weekend’s games. 

The Zags Look to Regroup After Last Weekend’s Loss (USA Today Images)
  1. Will Gonzaga bounce back from its loss to Tennessee with a win against North Carolina? (Gonzaga @ North Carolina, Saturday 7 PM EST, ESPN2) A 2017 Final Four rematch takes place in Chapel Hill on Saturday evening. Gonzaga is coming off of its first loss of the season, a game in which they led Tennessee by nine points with just over six minutes to go. Gonzaga could be challenged by the Tar Heels’ excellent ability to attack the offensive glass. 
  2. Will Butler have enough size to lock down Romeo Langford? (Indiana vs. Butler, Saturday 3:45 PM EST, CBS) Indiana starts four players who are 6’4″ or taller while Butler starts just two players above that height. Romeo Langford’s size will create a mismatch against any Bulldogs starter. The freshman comes into this game averaging over 18 points per game despite going just 5-of-21 from beyond the arc in Indiana’s last six games.
  3. Which conference breaks the tie in this ACC/Big Ten Challenge tie-breaker of sorts? (NC State vs. Penn State in Atlantic City, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPNU) Penn State’s lone bright spot on its season to date is its win over Virginia Tech in the challenge. The Nittany Lions are just 1-3 away from Happy Valley and take on an NC State group whose lone loss came at Wisconsin after blowing a double-figure second half lead. 
  4. Can St. Mary’s add a quality win to the WCC conference resume? (LSU vs. St. Mary’s in Las Vegas, Saturday 11 PM EST, ESPNU) After a rough patch in the middle of November, the Gaels have now won four straight contests. This game in Las Vegas will feature a terrific backcourt match-up between St. Mary’s Jordan Ford and LSU’s Tremont Waters.
  5. Where will the offense come from in a battle of great defenses? (Cincinnati @ Mississippi State, Saturday 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network) Both teams feature top 30 defenses with suffocating ball pressure and length at the rim. While they have not done a good job in getting to the line, Mississippi State once there has an ability to make free throws at a clip above 76 percent. That could be the difference.
  6. Can Villanova’s defense be fixed in time to challenge Kansas in Lawrence? (Villanova @ Kansas, Saturday Noon EST, ESPN) Villanova opponents last season managed to score at a rate of 1.2 points per possession just once all year, per KenPom. This season, the Wildcats have already allowed two opponents (Penn and La Salle) to do so. If the Wildcats can show signs of life defensively, their offense remains potent and capable of stealing a win in Lawrence.
  7. Will Nebraska add to its non-conference resume? (Nebraska vs. Oklahoma State in South Dakota, Sunday 7 PM EST, Big Ten Network) A year ago, the Cornhuskers’ resume featured just one non-conference win against a team ranked among the KenPom top 100. Nebraska already has notched three such wins prior to this opportunity. In their last game, the Cornhuskers made 14-of-27 three-point attempts en route to a 19-point win over Creighton.
  8. Will Houston stay perfect? (Saint Louis @ Houston, Sunday 3 PM EST, ESPNU) In its last five games, Houston’s Corey Davis and Armani Brooks have gone 8-of-37 and 21-of-56, respectively, from beyond the arc. The three-point happy Cougars take on a Billikens team that is among the nation’s best in defending from distance. 
  9. Will someone other than Carsen Edwards show up for Purdue? (Purdue vs. Notre Dame in Indianapolis, Saturday 1:30 PM EST, CBS) In Purdue’s loss last weekend to Texas, the Boilermakers other than Carsen Edwards missed 16-of-18 three-point attempts. Shooting woes for Ryan Cline have led to the senior shooting just 6.7 percent over his last 15 three-point attempts.
  10. Can the Pac-12 get a win or two over the Big 12? (Baylor @ Arizona, Saturday 11 PM EST, ESPN2 and USC @ Oklahoma, Saturday 9 PM EST, ESPNU)  As a league, the Pac-12 has won just 11 of 41 Quadrant 1 and 2 games heading into this weekend. Arizona gets a shot at a Baylor team who has yet to beat any club among the KenPom top 150. Wins by Arizona and USC could go a long way for the conference come NCAA Tournament selection time.

 

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ACC M5: 12.10.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 10th, 2018

  1. Syracuse.com. It was just like old times at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon as Syracuse edged Georgetown, 72-71, on Tyus Battle’s jumper with three seconds remaining. These original Big East schools have now met four years in a row after an initial two-year hiatus. Since the Orange joined the ACC prior to the 2013-14 season, they have played 14 non-conference games against original Big East schools, winning six of those contests. But with the ACC moving to a 20-game conference schedule beginning in 2019-20, Jim Boeheim isn’t sure those marquee match-ups can continue. Boeheim commented on the matter after Saturday’s contest, saying, “We’ve got so many games we have to play. It’s difficult to play these games.” That would be an unfortunate consequence of the new ACC schedule plan – it’s safe to say that most of us would rather see Syracuse play Georgetown (or Villanova) than an extra meeting with, say, Georgia Tech.
  2. Onefootdown.com. Speaking of historic non-conference rivalries from the past, Notre Dame lost to UCLA at the buzzer, 65-62, on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. As this article points out, the Irish’s problems are, for once, coming on the offensive end. Against the Bruins, Mike Brey’s club made only 33.3 percent of its twos and 8-of-15 from the foul line. On the season, Notre Dame has logged an effective field goal percentage of just 47.7 percent, making it to date the worst shooting team of the Brey era. Not coincidentally, this is also the youngest team Brey has ever suited up. Maybe the offense will begin to click as the season progresses, but if it doesn’t, Notre Dame should expect to have a lot of long nights in ACC play.
  3. Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Two southern ACC schools participated in Saturday’s Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In the first game, Clemson fell to Mississippi State, 82-71, as the Bulldogs set a program record with 19 three-pointers. This is becoming a troubling pattern for Brad Brownell’s defense this year. Not only are the Tigers allowing opponents to shoot very well from deep – 39.1 percent (322nd nationally) – but they are also giving them a ton of opportunities. Opponents are attempting a robust 43.5 percent of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. As Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said, “You take what the defense gives you. And basically what their defense was giving us today were threes.” For the season, Clemson is giving up 2.5 more made threes per game than they are making. That is not a long-term recipe for success.
  4. Hartford Courant. In the second game at the Prudential Center, Florida State beat Connecticut, 79-71, in a ragged type of affair in which the Seminoles seem to thrive. The game featured a total of 41 turnovers and 55 fouls that resulted in 58 free throw attempts. Leonard Hamilton’s teams have often struggled with ball-handling and this year is no exception – the Seminoles rank 320th in the country with a turnover rate of 22.4 percent. But that’s offset by a defense that forces miscues on 24.3 percent of opponent’s possessions, good for 12th in the nation. With Florida State’s depth, Hamilton doesn’t mind a foul-fest type of game either – the Seminoles also beat Purdue in a similar manner in the recent ACC/Big Ten Challenge.  Expect a lot more “ugly” games involving Florida State, and a lot more Seminoles’ victories.
  5. Yahoo Sports. One scheduled ACC game this weekend did not take place as Boston College was either unable or unwilling – depending on which school you listen to – to travel to Texas A&M. This piece goes through the timeline of relevant events, beginning with the Eagles’ original flight that was delayed because of problems with their chartered plane. It sounds like several alternatives were presented for the game to continue, even if it was moved to a later tip-time on Saturday, but apparently Jim Christian was not willing to play a big non-conference game just five or six hours after a long plane flight. The sad part for Boston College is that it has missed an opportunity to notch a solid road win, something they would likely need to have any shot at an NCAA at-large bid this season.
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2018-19 RTC16: Week Two

Posted by Walker Carey on December 3rd, 2018

Right around the beginning of December, the college basketball world begins to really notice which teams may have been severely underrated in the preseason. This year, #5 Michigan is the most glaring example of a team whose significant early season success has been wholly unexpected. The Wolverines began the year with several question marks stemming from the loss of significant production from last season’s national runner-up squad. Because of that looming uncertainty, John Beilein‘s team did not receive even a single vote in the preseason RTC16. So far, that has turned out to be a big omission, as Michigan sits at 8-0 following a week in which it laid waste to both #11 North Carolina and a solid Purdue team. Sophomore guard Jordan Poole and junior forward Jon Teske have taken crucial steps forward this season, and freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis has emerged as a viable offensive weapon. Their development has aided veteran guards Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews in leading the Wolverines to their unbeaten start. It should be a requirement to not overlook a Beilein team in the preseason because he has proven time and time again that the Wolverines are usually going to surpass expectations. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

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What’s Trending: The ACC/Big Ten Challenge & More…

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 3rd, 2018

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Two weeks ago, college basketball fans were treated to a Feast Week that featured Gonzaga vs. Duke in Maui, Virginia vs. Wisconsin in the Bahamas and Kansas vs. Tennessee in Brooklyn. This past week brought us the perfect dessert to the meal with the 20th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. This season’s event, as always, included a plethora of quality match-ups…

https://twitter.com/accmbb/status/1067103946186067968

The challenge this year included Michigan soundly beating North Carolina by 17 points, as Wolverines’ freshman Iggy Brazdeikis scored a season-high 24 points in a dominant performance. Michigan’s elite defense stifled the Tar Heels all game long, as the below sequence shows…

https://twitter.com/BigTenNetwork/status/1068000299506225152

The challenge this year included Wisconsin making plays in crunch time. The Badgers overcame a 12-point second half deficit to beat NC State. The below sequence sealed things…

The challenge this year included last-second drama. Pittsburgh was down a point with the ball in the closing seconds against Iowa. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the final few seconds included nothing more than these two airballs….

The challenge this year included an ACC team draining a game-winning shot in the final seconds. Leonard Hamilton‘s Florida State club trailed Purdue by eight points with under four minutes to go, but the deficit was just one point with ten seconds remaining. Then, the Seminoles’ Trent Forrest stepped up…

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/1068003704312233984

The challenge this year featured 14 games and each conference walked away with seven victories. Thank you ACC, thank you Big Ten, for another terrific challenge.

https://twitter.com/theACCDN/status/1068007237413732352

The challenge this year featured a number of individual efforts and plays as well. There was Zion doing #Zionthings in Duke‘s win over Indiana…

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1067633045904199681

The challenge this year featured Wisconsin‘s Brad Davison taking five charges….

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1067663730316636161

Outside of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge last week, college basketball also experienced a rather sizable lowlight. Despite having access to countless respected advanced analytics platforms and plenty of smart people offering to help the NCAA develop its system, it decided to handle the job on its own. The organization unveiled its initial NET Rankings on Wednesday morning…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1067105577661276160

And well, within a half-hour Twitter ripped apart the new system. Whether that meant Nate Silver offering this opinion…

The NET rankings also gave us the least talked about upset of a “#1” team ever…

This past week also featured March Madness darling Sister Jean jumping back into our lives as she was given a Final Four ring at Loyola (Chicago)

This past week also featured two plays that flew under the radar. First, Western Kentucky’s Josh Anderson registered this dunk which could be up against any dunk of the week…

And finally, Eastern Kentucky’s Nick Mayo found the ball in his hands in the waning seconds against High Point…

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ACC M5: 12.03.18 Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 3rd, 2018

morning5_ACC

  1. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: After coming up just a little short at Iowa in last week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge, Pittsburgh struggled early in Friday’s annual City Game with cross-town rival Duquesne. But the Panthers eventually got it going and won going away, 74-53, in front of a crowd of 12,246. We mention the game’s attendance because it represents a 21 percent increase over last year’s meeting in the same event, furthering the notion that first-year head coach Jeff Capel is rebuilding the excitement level for his program in the Steel City. Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot noticed a difference with Capel in charge, saying, “[Former Pitt] Coach [Kevin] Stallings is a finesse guy who is a little more offensively oriented. This team is more like Duke [where Capel played and was an assistant coach].”
  2. Louisvile Courier-Journal: Louisville took another positive step in its own rebuilding process by winning at Seton Hall, 70-65, on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals showed during Feast Week that they were ready to compete with the big boys — dropping close games against Tennessee and Marquette in the NIT Season Tip-Off — before edging top-10 Michigan State in overtime last week. In adding a significant road win over a Big East club, Chris Mack‘s balanced attack — only Dwayne Sutton (12 points) reached double figures — has become the norm this year. Sophomore breakout player Jordan Nwora (17.7 PPG) leads the squad in scoring, but eight other Cardinals are averaging between 6.3 and 10.0 points per contest. Keep an eye on this team over the next month.
  3. USA Today: Three ACC schools took part in Saturday’s Miami Hoophall Invitational at AmericanAirlines Arena, although the sparse crowds suggest that the four games would have fit better in a local high school gym. Georgia Tech was the first squad to see action, ultimately blowing a 16-point second half lead in falling to St. John’s, 76-73. We are now in year three of the Josh Pastner era, and some clear patterns have emerged:  First, the Yellow Jackets will defend hard (they are currently 16th in national defensive efficiency); next, they will struggle to make shots from deep (30.7% 3FG this season). If their shooting holds, Georgia Tech will fail to make at least 33 percent of its three-pointers for the third straight season. Until Pastner can recruit some shooters into the program — and shouldn’t he have by now (?) — the Yellow Jackets’ limited offense will hold them back.
  4. Miami Sun-Sentinel: Georgia Tech wasn’t the only ACC team to blow a huge lead in the Hoophall Invitational. Home team Miami squandered a 15-point second half advantage in losing to Yale, 77-73, its third consecutive defeat. Head coach Jim Larranaga has noticed a fatal flaw in the Hurricanes’ defense this year — after Yale’s Miye Oni (29 points) torched his club, the Hurricanes’ coach noted, “We just don’t have a guy that can stop a guy like that.” Previously, Bethune-Cookman’s Malik Maitland (29 points) and Fresno State’s Braxton Huggins (28 points) found similar success against the Hurricanes’ defense. This raises the obvious question — if mid-major players are slicing up Miami, what will happen when the stars of the ACC get a crack at the Hurricanes?
  5. WRAL Sportsfan: The only victorious ACC school in Miami on Saturday was NC State, which pulled away late to top Vanderbilt, 80-65. Much like the Wolfpack’s game at Wisconsin earlier in the week — when the Badgers rallied to overtake them — NC State was in control for most of the way before being challenged in the second half. This time, Kevin Keatts’ team responded positively in what was only their second match-up with a team ranked in KenPom’s top 175. NC State forward Torin Dorn is quietly putting up impressive numbers in many areas. The 6’5″ senior is leading the team in scoring (16.6 PPG) and on the boards (7.6 RPG), while making 55.7 percent of his two-point tries and 50.0 percent of his three-point attempts. Additionally, Dorn has collected 14 steals and only committed nine turnovers in eight games this year.
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Ten Questions to Consider: Early Conference Action? Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 30th, 2018

As November comes to a close, we are starting to have an idea of what teams will look like this season. Here are 10 questions I have for a group heading into this weekend’s action.

Michigan and Purdue Meet in an Early Monster Big Ten Match-Up (USA Today Images)

  1. Can the Badgers end their skid against the Hawkeyes? (Wisconsin @ Iowa, Friday 8 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Wisconsin begins Big Ten play on the last day of November with a trip to Iowa. The Badgers come to Iowa City having lost two straight to the Hawkeyes. In last season’s defeat, the trio of Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson and the seldom used Charles Thomas made 20-of-35 shots while the rest of the Badgers went 6-of-30 from the field.
  2. Can San Francisco continue its hot start in Northern Ireland? (San Francisco vs. Stephen F. Austin, Friday 8 AM EST) The Hall of Fame Belfast Classic will give four mid-majors an opportunity to pick up a pair of quality wins this weekend. While the WCC is often Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and everyone else, USF is making its presence felt so far this seaon. The Dons are a perfect 5-0 to date and have a chance to pick up quality wins against Stephen F. Austin and potentially Buffalo. A pair of victories here could further the WCC’s notion of becoming a three-bid league next March.
  3. How will Gonzaga fare in its first true road game of the season? (Gonzaga @ Creighton, Saturday 2 PM EST, Fox) Gonzaga hits the road for its first true road game of the year in Omaha against Creighton. The Bulldogs must deal with an elite shooting team in the Bluejays, which have made at least nine three-pointers in every game while Gonzaga has allowed that many only once.
  4. Can Purdue’s offense be effective against Michigan’s elite defense? (Purdue @ Michigan, Saturday 3:30 PM, ESPN) In Purdue’s recent two losses, star guard Carsen Edwards committed 14 turnovers while handing out 11 assists. This early blockbuster Big Ten match-up will be interesting as Michigan’s defensive focus is staying in front of its opponent and making every shot difficult — more so than creating turnovers.
  5. Can USC get a resume-building win over Nevada? (Nevada @ USC, Saturday 4:30 PM EST, Fox) USC sits at 5-2 with all five of its wins against teams with a KenPom ranking outside of the top 200. With Nevada coming into the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon, the Trojans have an opportunity to add a marquee win to their resume. In order to have a chance, USC will need Bennie Boatwright to shine and for Kevin Porter Jr. to play after missing the last two games with a quad bruise. Read the rest of this entry »
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2018-19 RTC 16: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 26th, 2018

The college basketball season really got cooking during a Feast Week that featured two top-five match-ups that could easily be played again at the Final Four in Minneapolis. #1 Gonzaga and #3 Duke tipped things off Wednesday evening in what was an extremely entertaining Maui Invitational title game. The veteran Bulldogs led by as many as 16 points before withstanding a furious Blue Devils rally to escape with a thrilling 89-87 victory. Not to be outdone, #2 Kansas and #5 Tennessee turned in their own early season classic on Friday in the title game of the Preseason NIT. The Jayhawks used a dynamite performance from star forward Dedric Lawson — coupled with the good fortune of Tennessee star big man Grant Williams fouling out prior to overtime — to emerge victorious with an 87-81 result. The college hoops regular season is much more of a marathon than a sprint, but these early season treats serve as a good reminder of how compelling it can be when we have the pleasure of watching some of the best teams in the country face off against one another.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Gonzaga is the new #1 team. Following its impressive win over #3 Duke in the Maui Invitational title game, Gonzaga is the new #1 team in this week’s RTC16. Mark Few‘s squad is loaded with the talent all over the court, highlighted by sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. and junior forward Rui Hachimura. What might be the most impressive aspect of the current Bulldogs is that they have emerged to these heights without the services of excellent junior forward Killian Tillie, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Gonzaga’s non-conference slate does not get much easier this week, as it faces a good North Dakota State program on Monday before hitting the road to play in what will be a raucous environment at Creighton on Saturday.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Feast Week

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 23rd, 2018

It’s time to take out the Thanksgiving leftovers, make a plate of food and sit back and watch some college basketball. Here are 10 questions to consider heading into this weekend’s slate of games.

Will Virginia be the Next Highly-Ranked ACC Team to Take an Upset (USA Today Images)

  1. Will Virginia come out on top as Battle 4 Atlantis Champions? (Championship Game, Friday 2 PM EST, ESPN) Tony Bennett’s squad squares off against Wisconsin in a defensive spectacular. This mid-afternoon match-up will likely be slow, physical, and must-see tv. Ethan Happ will test the big men of Virginia.
  2. Who will win the Grant Williams/Dedric Lawson matchup? (NIT Tip-Off Final, Tennessee vs. Kansas, Friday 9 PM EST, ESPN2)  Both Grant Williams of Tennessee and Dedric Lawson of Kansas have shined through the first few weeks of the season. Each draws more than seven fouls per 40 minutes of action, so they will be tested to defend each another without fouling.
  3. Will Villanova get back to being Villanova? (Advocare Invitational, Friday and Saturday) After losing consecutive games for the first time since the 2012-13 season, Villanova heads to Florida for the Advocare Invitational. Phil Booth and Eric Paschall shot a combined 7-of-31 on three-point attempts in the two recent Wildcat losses. If they get their shots back, Villanova should sail through this bracket; otherwise Jay Wright’s team could be in trouble in a second-round match-up with either Oklahoma State or Memphis.
  4. Will Miami leave the Wooden Legacy undefeated? (Wooden Legacy, Friday and Saturday) When Miami last played in the Wooden Legacy in 2013, they began the tournament with a loss to George Washington. The Hurricanes begin this tournament against an Atlantic 10 team again this time — La Salle. Miami heads to Fullerton as one of 14 teams with a top 25 ranking in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Read the rest of this entry »
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